Question: Since retiring last year, I have subscribed to a series of 22-karat bank notes of Belize. Other than their value as legal tender in Belize or as an art novelty, have you any comment on their worth as a collector's item?--M.S.
Answer: You're into an area of collecting that holds little or no appeal to genuine numismatists. Personally, I like older coins that have some historical significance. An 1864 two-cent piece in low-grade condition because it has been widely circulated might have been used by Abraham Lincoln or some Civil War hero, yet it can be purchased for about $10.
If that series of gold pieces shaped as bills appeals to you, you can attempt to assemble a date set. There are many other ways to go, including modern proof sets and uncirculated sets.
The point is, numismatics is a terrific hobby. If your Belize bank notes make you happy, then enjoy them. But I doubt that you'll ever get to spend them in Belize or retrieve your investment in the numismatic marketplace. People collect just about everything from guns to autos to matchboxes. Many of these collectibles appreciate in value, which makes the hobby that much more exciting. Coins have an excellent record in this regard. But you don't have to concentrate on the premium pieces to enjoy the hunt for a particular date or denomination.
And, if you have patience and gain knowledge, there's always the possibility of making a profit. But that should not be your prime motive, especially when you're retired and have the time to pursue all aspects of numismatics.
As for Belize, it might be a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to collect there.
Q: When my brother passed away recently, I fell heir to some paper money, which is labeled in English: The Japanese Government, 10 pesos. There are some others in different amounts. Could this currency have been issued when they occupied the Philippines? Are they of any value?--C.S.
A: You do, indeed, have occupation currency. The market for it is minimal and the bills have little or no collector value.
Q: I wrote to you last year on this coin and didn't see anything on it, so I'll try again. I have a coin dated 1782 in AG-G (very worn) condition. One side reads: Georgius III Rex. The other side: Hibernia 1782.--A.O.
A: Because of the date, I'm not sure what your coin is. The Hibernia penny (Colonial coinage) is worth about $5 or $10, but your date doesn't jibe with listed varieties. Check the date again; some are quite valuable.
Israel has issued a low-mintage 1985 Capernaum commemorative (pictured) in three denominations of historical interest to Christians and Jews. It is the fourth in a series of geographic commemoratives. Capernaum is the site of a 2nd- and 3rd-Century synagogue and also the location where Jesus performed many of his miracles. Coins are a proof half shekel, brilliant uncirculated 1 shekel and proof 5 shekalim (gold). Mintages range from 4,000 for the gold to 10,000 for the silver half shekel. To order, contact the Israel Government Coins & Medals Corp., 350 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10018.
More than $2.1 million was realized in the three-day September sale by Auctions by Bowers & Merina. A highlight of the auction, the unique 1870-S half dime, sold for $176,000. Other prices included $11,000 for a 1792 half cent (AU-50), $6,600 for an 1869 choice proof dollar (proof-65), $6,160 for an 1889 $3 gold piece (MS-63 to MS-65), $13,750 for an 1864 U.S. proof set and $3,080 for an 1880 proof half dollar.
Don Alpert cannot answer mail personally but will respond to numismatic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Coins, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.